In a day and age where it feels like big budget blockbuster TV shows are released on a weekly basis, thanks to the multitude of streaming services now available, still nothing has hit as hard as 2001’s Band of Brothers. At the time it was revolutionary, the largest budget ever given to a limited series and spearheaded by Steven Spielberg & Tom Hanks. They produced ten episodes of the highest quality TV ever made and in 2024 it still remains one of the greatest TV shows in history. The story of Easy Company’s journey across Europe to Berlin will remain one of the greatest war stories to ever be told.
Spielberg’s creative team then followed that up with 2010’s The Pacific an equally brutal portrayal of the theater of war in Japan. And now 14 years after that Masters of the Air arrives and it’s worth the wait. This time we witness WWII from the sky, it tells the story of the real-life 100th Bomb Group.
The 100th Bomb Group, were a prominent unit of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Activated in 1942, the group played a crucial role in the strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany. Operating primarily from Thorpe Abbotts airfield in England, the 100th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and participated in numerous daylight bombing missions over Europe.
The group gained a reputation for its tenacity and bravery in the face of intense enemy opposition, earning the nickname ‘The Bloody Hundredth’ due to the high casualties it suffered. Despite the challenges, the 100th Bomb Group contributed significantly to the Allied air effort, ultimately helping to weaken the German war machine and pave the way for the success of the D-Day invasion and the overall Allied victory in Europe.
Masters of the Air has arrived with a little less fanfare compared to it’s predecessors, now that maybe because we’ve been spoilt with high quality TV or for the fact it’s on Apple TV+ which is still growing its subscriber base. Spielberg & Hanks have jumped ship from HBO and it’s NOT at all a bad thing. Apple TV have produced some of the best shows in recent years. Their production value and quality is at the very, very top and they deserve to be in the same bracket as HBO.
Following a similar style to ‘Band of Brothers‘ the show is beautifully narrated by Anthony Boyle’s Major Harry Crosby, he gently guides us through the heartache and brutality of their journey. And an inseparable friendship between Austin Butler’s Gale ‘Buck’ Cleven and Callum Turner’s John ‘Bucky’ Egan is at the heart of the story, as was Richard Winters (Damian Lewis) and Lewis Nixon’s (Ron Livingston) relationship in ‘Band of Brothers.’
Turner’s ‘Bucky’ is emotional and temperamental, he’s a hard-drinker and will get in your face. Butler’s ‘Buck’ is the smooth talker, he’s cool, calm and collected and he keeps Bucky on the straight and narrow, both actors turn in fantastic performances. Another standout character from the first two episodes is Barry Keoghan’s Lt Curtis Biddick sporting a 1930’s New York accent, he’s a brawler type, abrasive and cocky.
As we join them on their first mission, we experience how incredibly dangerous these missions are, in no way shape or form are these soldiers safe in a B-17 bomber. And quite incredibly they executed these missions in broad daylight, much to the bemusement of a British RAF pilot who called them suicidal. As the bombers approach their intended target in formation, they are assaulted by aerial bombs and .50 caliber turret fire that shreds the planes to pieces. After just one mission you will understand why their nickname was ‘The Bloody Hundredth’ every time they take to the air you don’t know who’s coming back and it plays out on-screen with nerve-shredding intensity.
The cinematography is simply stunning, the flying sequences are beautifully crafted. The acting is superb even though much of it’s under masks, it’s still spectacularly intense and showcases the exceptional pressure these pilots endured, their courage is breathtaking.
It was never really in doubt that Spielberg & Hanks would deliver, they truly are the masters of this genre. I’m blown away after just two episodes, I can’t wait for the rest of the series to unfold.